Sport is incredible at throwing up stories about people rising from the harshest conditions to achieve glory. MMA probably produces more of those stories than any other sport, as people with nothing are forced to use the tools they were born with, namely their fists, elbows and feet. The UFC may be about to have another one of those stories, and what’s more, is it is happening in the heavyweight division.
Who is Tai Tuivasa?
One of 12 brothers and sisters, Tuivasa grew up in Mount Druitt, a suburb of Western Sydney, New South Wales, Australia. Like fellow Aussie Alexander Volkanovski who will headline UFC273, his sporting career started out in rugby league, but due to personal issues, was forced to quit that sport. That led him into a fighting career, embarking on both a boxing and MMA path. In the square ring, he got to the final of two eight-man tournaments, losing both to unanimous points decisions, which gave him a record of seven fights, five wins, two losses, five wins coming by way of knockout.
Impressive though that is, his MMA stats were better. His first six MMA fights, all in Australia, gave him a perfect record of six wins from six fights. He won all six in the first round, a record and a showreel that rightly brought him to the attention of Dana White and the UFC.
Tuivasa in the UFC
A month after the last of those fights, he signed a four-year deal with the UFC. Unfortunately, the six foot two inch Tuivasa had to undergo knee surgery for an ongoing knee injury, something that would prevent him from fighting for 12 months. When he was fit once more, luck would have it that his UFC debut would be in his home city of Sydney at the UFC Fight Night: Werdum vs Tybura. He carried on where he had left off, despatching Rashad Coulter in the first round with a flying knee. Three months later, again in Australia, he defeated Cyril Asker in the first round by TKO. His next win really brought him to people’s attention when he beat former champion Andrei Arlovski, this time by unanimous decision, the first time he had gone the distance.
Three successive defeats followed, and his career could have disappeared as suddenly as it had begun, but Tuivasa, who had got into fighting just because he enjoyed it and had very little else to do did the equivalent of biting down onto his gumshield and decided to become the best fighter he could possibly be.
To become world champions is one thing, to defend it is another, and it is the Sydney fighter’s ambition to not just do that but to establish himself as one of the greatest heavyweight champions to step into the octagon.
This new dedication paid off. Coming on the back of three straight defeats, he went on a formidable winning streak, defeating all five opponents, three in the first round. The wins against Stefan Struve and Greg Hardy were impressive, but it was his second-round victory of knock out king Derrick Lewis, in Lewis’ home town, that really made people sit up and realise Tuivasa is the real deal.
World Champion Material?
Don’t let Tuivasa’s antics, especially his trademark shoey, detract from what he can produce inside the octagon. He has proved he can go toe to toe with the division’s best punchers, take them on at their own game and win. He has destructive power in both hands, uses his elbows to devastating effect and his kicking game is high level. It was believed the way to beat current champion Francis Ngannou would be on the ground, but his fight against Ciryl Gane showed he is a far more technical fighter than the one who lost to Stipe in his first title shot.
Tai Bam Bam Tuivasa is already a star, and his future in the division is set to be a long and glittering one. But besides that, there is no reason at all, that he can’t defy all the odds once again and become the baddest man on the planet.